Life and style on a modern houseboat
See what it's like to fall asleep to the sounds of seals and run errands by kayak
The transition wasn’t without tradeoffs—including a major downsizing of belongings—but when the sun is shining and the tide is high, the family can’t imagine living anywhere else. “We open all the windows and doors,” says Matt, “the breezes come in, and it’s instantly summer.”
“Jack always says he’s looking for sharks and jellyfish out his window, and it’s true, he really is—it’s not make-believe. Sometimes we even wake up at night to the heavy breathing of seals surfacing outside our bedroom window.” - Jennifer
“Out here, it’s like we’re in touch with a different measure of time. It’s beautiful at high tide, when you’re floating and the water is all around you, but then we appreciate the low tide too: The mud summons the herons and sandpipers out to look for food.” –Matt
“We’re definitely a community. In the city, you might know who lives next door, but your neighbor two or three doors down? Sometimes this much closeness can feel awkward, but it’s better—and healthier—than the isolating urban alternative.” –Jennifer
“Ultimately, a tight kitchen is a huge advantage. I’m not running back and forth all the time from the fridge to the counter to the stove. I set up just what I need, and things go right in the dishwasher when I’m done. It just seems natural to me now, that this is the way I cook.” –Jennifer
“We live green by necessity. It’s a long dock, so it’s ‘pack it in, pack it out.’ ” –Matt
“Jack doesn’t even need to put on his shoes to go over to his buddy’s house—he just needs his life jacket.” –Matt
“When dinner is finished and the kids are in bed, one of us will grab the kayak and take a quick paddle around the neighborhood. It’s peaceful, but it’s not exactly quiet. There are constant squeaks and creaks and knocking from the boats and the gangways—that was something we had to get used to when we first moved here.” –Matt
“When the weather’s warm, we do a lot of ‘Hey, we’re opening a bottle of wine on the roof deck. Want to come over?’ We’ll sit and talk and enjoy the night sky. Because we’re so far from the streets, there are no lights above and you can really see the stars.” –Matt
- Be strict about capacity. Reach a point of equilibrium with your stuff and stick with it. “Our kids know when they get a new thing, they have to say goodbye to something else,” says Matt.
- Embrace imperfection. “I’m a cluttery person,” laughs Jennifer. “It’s when I stop pretending to be perfect and figure out a solution that the house works best.”
- Store it where you use it. In the kitchen, oven mitts and spatulas are to the right of the stove, and the blender and mixer reside on the countertop where Jennifer bakes.
- There’s always room for memories. “My grandmother’s waffle iron lives permanently on our stovetop,” says Jennifer. “I love it, so I make space for it, and we use it every day.”
Seattle: More than 500 homes float on Lake Union and Portage Bay. The docks are off-limits—except for the annual tour (Sep 12; $25; seattlefloatinghomes.org), when you’re welcome to look inside about a dozen homes.
Always open? The waterways surrounding the homes. Rent a kayak at Northwest Outdoor Center (from $13 per hour; 206/281-9694).
Near Vancouver, B.C.: A paddle along the protected waterway where 125 homes are moored in Ladner, British Columbia, is a view into each owner’s whims, from Mississippi riverboat to ’70s ramshackle to ultramodern. Keep an eye out for bald eagles. Kaymaran Adventure Tours: From $63 U.S.; reservations required; 604/946-7507. Ladner Reach Marina: floatinghomes.com/mikesmarine.htm